A New Wave In Fishing Craft

Not too long ago, only Inuit people were fishing from kayaks. But today those Arctic natives have plenty of company on the water!

For the most part, I am a wade-fisherman. I do enjoy the independence and closeness to my prey that the wading affords.

Kayaks have proven popular with anglers for small ponds and hard to reach waters.
Photo courtesy of Hobie Kayaks.

I have also learned too well the limitations that face me when angling by foot and what an advantage it is at times to have a vessel that can transport me to those out-of-reach places in as stealthy a manner as the wading offers.

Too often, while wading saltwater marshes I find myself confined to an area by just a few feet of spartina grass growing from a soft, mushy bottom that cannot be traversed without sinking to my waist. In freshwater situations, narrow channels only a few feet across, but still too deep to walk through, have kept me from areas that I would have liked to fish. Even though the barriers are slight, they can be too dangerous to cross on foot and can really limit my ability to get to where the fish are.

Kayaks are the perfect solution for solving many logistical issues in fishing and they provide a number of advantages that have not gone unnoticed in recent years by anglers. The popularity of fishing from a kayak has greatly increased in the past decade.

That popularity is certainly evident when taking a closer look at the kayaks manufacturers are offering today. They have seen the increase in demand and listened to the needs of the kayak fishermen. With all the innovation it can be mind-boggling when deciding what type of kayak is best. But the good thing is that there are plenty to choose from for all types of fishing.

Why fish from a kayak, when a canoe or a johnboat will serve just as well? Each method of transporting one from one spot to another has its advantages, and, of course, the 60-mile-per-hour bass boat can get you there first, but there are several reasons that some anglers prefer kayaks over these other means.

KAYAK ADVANTAGES
Accessibility is an important factor for those who fish from a kayak. Wherever there is a place to access the water's edge, you have a place suitable for launching a kayak. There is no need for a boat ramp. Kayaks can also get to places that may not be accessible by a motorboat, such as extremely shallow areas. These paddle boats can pass through only 3 or 4 inches of water while carrying hundreds of pounds of cargo.

Kayaks are perfect for fishing rocky streams and getting through those stretches that might damage a regular boat. Also, kayaks are less likely to get beached on a falling tide when fishing in saltwater. Unlike larger and heavier boats a kayak can be dragged across sandbars or rocky shoals if needed. Kayaks are also great for squeezing through tiny openings along the water's edge. They can take you to places that very rarely or even never have seen an angler.

Almost always it seems, wind is an angler's adversary. Fishing from a kayak gives an angler a big advantage when it comes to windy conditions. Kayaks are sleeker and closer to the water providing less resistance to the wind. This is a particular advantage for angling from a kayak verses fishing from a canoe.

Kayaks also can simply be used to get from one wading spot to another. This can be advantageous in river or stream fishing. More water can be covered as you drift from shoal to shoal stopping to wade along the way. The same applies to wade-fishing in saltwater. The kayak can be used to cross deep channels to wade flats that would otherwise not be reachable by foot or even larger boats.

The fish will never hear you coming when fishing from a kayak. That is evident when paddling along and spotting fish right underneath you. Even a group of fishermen in kayaks can travel with great stealth.

The portability of kayaks is unmatched. They weigh less than other boats, including canoes. Yet, kayaks designed for fishermen have multiple storage options for gear and tackle. Anglers will find that they can carry as much or more than they will need while on the water. In fact, many kayak fishermen find that they only need minimal gear and prefer scaling back for a simpler fishing experience.

Kayaks are ideal for the solitary fisherman. Many models can be handled easily by one person and are always handy for a last minute fishing trip.

Finally, these boats are so light and maneuverable that fishing from a kayak doesn't require an athletic physique. Most any reasonably fit fishermen can handle a kayak.

KAYAK ATTRIBUTES
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when purchasing a kayak for fishing. Manufacturers have designed boats to meet the needs of a wide variety of fishermen and challenging fishing environments. When shopping for a kayak there can be many options and features to consider regarding what best suits your needs.

All kayaks basically fall into two categories -- either sit in kayaks (SIK) and sit on tops (SOT). Traditional kayaks that most people think of are the sit-in variety. These kayaks are enclosed to keep water out and a membrane skirt can be added to surround the operator who is sitting down inside a small cockpit. These models require some skill and practice to up-right and exit in the event of rollovers.

Even though the overall kayak market is dominated by SIKs, the kayak fishing industry is dominated by sit on tops. They are basically long hollow tubes with a molded seat where the angler, obviously, sits on top rather than inside. These are better designed for carrying fishing gear, entering and exiting the kayak, and often more comfortable and less confining for the angler. If it should rollover, you simply fall out.

A basic criterion for selecting a fishing kayak is personal comfort based on your weight and size. Most models fit a person of average size, but if you are taller than the average person, selecting a kayak with plenty of legroom may be a priority. Heavier folks may want a wider seating area. Proper fit and comfort are important, since you often are fishing and paddling the kayak for several hours on an outing.

Selecting kayaks with greater stability is important to most anglers. Many of the models are stable enough to stand in and fish. This is important to fly fishermen and anglers who are sight casting to fish. Generally the wider the kayak the more stable it is.

When it relates to kayaks, there are two types of stability, initial and secondary. Initial stability is determined by how much a kayak wobbles on the water. Secondary stability can be more important because it determines how far the kayak can lean in one direction before it actually turns over. A model that has high secondary stability takes a lot more effort to dump an angler and his gear into the water.

But also keep in mind that the wider and more stable a kayak is, the more effort it takes to maneuver it through the water. Speed and stability have opposite design elements when it comes to kayaks. The wider a kayak is, the more surface area it has to push through the water. The longer and slimmer models are much faster.

Experienced kayak anglers say that a common mistake people make when they purchase a boat is to think that they don't care how fast it will travel, as long as it's stable. More often than not that leads to a vessel that is too bulky to paddle for any distance at all. It can easily take more energy than you are willing to spend just to get to another fishing location. Besides not covering much water, this can cut a day of fishing short due to exhaustion.

Something else to consider is how long of a kayak to buy. Short kayaks are those less than 11 feet in length. Medium kayaks run from 11 to 13 feet in length and long kayaks are more than 14 feet. The longer a kayak is, the faster it is. Longer kayaks are also better suited for cutting through waves and chop often found in saltwater. Shorter models tend to ride over the bumps and waves. Longer kayaks also work well for navigating any large body of open water.

Shorter kayaks are a good option for fishing small, protected waters. If you plan on mixing it up, then a medium length kayak may be the right choice.

Length also greatly affects maneuverability or handling. Shorter kayaks turn more easily than longer ones. This is more important when fishing small, tight areas. When fishing open waters maneuverability isn't as critical.

Don't forget about how you plan to transport and store the kayak. Keep it a manageable size if you are transporting it from place to place either in or on your vehicle. If planning on leaving it at one location, then portability isn't as critical.

The weight of the kayak is very important, especially if you like fishing solo. You have to be able to move it on your own and to be able to load it up in a truck or on top of a car. Be sure to take into account the total weight of the kayak and the accessories that are added to it. Even the weight of what you load it up with while fishing is important if the need arises to drag it across shallow areas. Look at how the handles for carrying it are designed. These can make a difference in how easy or difficult it is to move it as well.

Also consider the weight that the manufacturer states the kayak will carry, especially if you are a large person. If the weight of you and all your gear fall near the maximum recommended capacity then you may want to consider another model. It's not desirable to have water seep in over the sides every time you head out to fish.

What color kayak to buy is up to the fisherman. It isn't really known if the color affects the behavior of the fish. What may matter more is if you want to be seen easily by other boats. If so, yellow, orange and other bright colors are good choices. Red is hard to see in low light and white may not stand out so much in choppy water. Additional ways to be visible to other boaters is to wear brightly-colored clothing or attach a brightly colored flag to your kayak. On the other hand, if you prefer to not be noticed by other fishing boats that may want to check out your fishing spot, then dark green and tan may be good options.

FREEDOM HAWK OUTRIGGER SYSTEM
For the ultimate stability in standing and casting from a kayak, Freedom Hawk Kayaks has created the in-line outrigger system. With the simple push of a handle the patented system allows the Freedom Hawk to transform from it's streamlined shape to a stable casting platform with stern outriggers. The two outriggers can also be easily removed for transport.

Another feature included by Freedom Hawk is the leaning post for added stability in standing.

For more details on Freedom Hawk kayaks and accessories visit www.freedomhawkkayaks.com.

HOBIE MIRAGE DRIVE
Paddling meets pedaling in the Hobie Mirage series of fishing kayaks. MirageDrive is designed for hands-free fishing. The pedal-system allows anglers to cast while gliding across the water providing quiet, efficient power. The constant application of power also greatly reduces the effects of wind and current. For shallow water boating, push down on one pedal to raise them flush with the bottom of the kayak.

The drop-in MirageDrive System can also be removed and replaced with the Hobie eVolve for quiet, emissions-free electric motor power.

Visit www.hobiekayaks.comfor complete details on Hobie products.

OCEAN KAYAK TORQUE
The Ocean Kayak Torque features a saltwater Minn Kota trolling motor with variable speed control. The motor delivers 36 pounds of thrust for quiet power with reverse capability to maneuver in and out of tight places. The Weedless Wedge Prop offers weed-free cruising. The motor unit floats and can easily be removed and replaced with a skeg plug. Visit www.oceankayak.comfor details.

WILDERNESS SYSTEM FREEDOM ELITE SEATING
For maximum comfort and support, Wilderness Systems has created Freedom Elite Seating. The breathable and ergonomically padded seat adjusts fore and aft in the boat. A leg lifter and a more substantial backrest offer full-body comfort. The Freedom Elite folds and stows under the Captain's seat when not in use or the seat is easily removed for use as a beach chair while on shore.

Visit www.wildernesssystems.comfor information on Wilderness Systems kayaks and other features.

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